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Dimensions of Diversity: Terminology in health research
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. (Welare and lifecourse)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0664-1170
2015 (English)Report (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This short review considers how ‘ethnicity’ and ‘superdiversity’ are used alongside ‘diversity’ in health research in a sample of recent journal articles. Diversity appears regularly in health inequalities research where the term is used to justify a focus on particular minorities presented as especially vulnerable to ill health or to being in receipt of inadequate services. Given the complexity of what is covered by ‘diversity’ there is a tendency to focus on a single dimension for intervention, such as language or ‘health literacy’. The development of cultural competency or cultural safety is a common response to diversity in health service provision. The review considers gaps in how diversity is treated and the way that superdiversity is largely being used as yet another synonym of diversity. The translation of terms into English, as the dominant language in the political economy of academic publishing, introduces further uncertainty in pinpointing the local dimension of diversity that is under research. The ways that ‘superdiversity’ is gradually appearing does not (yet) undo such uncertainty.


  • Diversity appears regularly in health inequality literature but is poorly defined
  • Diversity used synonymously with other terms (culture, ethnicity, race, language)
  • Superdiversity used as an amplifier
  • Language or ‘health literacy’ often nominate as aspect of diversity for intervention
  • Cultural competence or cultural safety encompass progressive aspirations but less often specific practical responses to the challenges of diversifying diversity
  • Health professionals do not see responding to diversity as their responsibility


  • Specified relationships between inequality, inequity and diversity
  • Positive effects of diversity on health outcomes and on inequality
  • Evaluation of effect of increased workforce diversity on health equality
  • Evaluation of effectiveness of cultural competency/safety programmes
  • Professional structures and culture rarely included as part of the problem
  • Effects of political and economic context, especially austerity and globalisation, on health services’ response to diversity
  • How dimensions of diversity relate to one another across locations
  • How vocabulary of superdiversity relates to that of ethnicity, racism and multiculturalism
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Birmingham: iRiS , 2015. , 19 p.
, IRIS working paper series, 12
Keyword [en]
diversity, health
National Category
Research subject
Health Care Research
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-269428OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-269428DiVA: diva2:883012
Available from: 2015-12-16 Created: 2015-12-16 Last updated: 2015-12-18Bibliographically approved

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